The 1980s and 1990s are a historically crucial period in the development of Asian Canadian literature. Slanting I, Imagining We: Asian Canadian Literary Production in the 1980s and 1990s contextualizes and reanimates the urgency of that period, illustrates its historical specificities, and shows how the concerns of that moment—from cultural appropriation to race essentialism to shifting models of the state—continue to resonate for contemporary discussions of race and literature in Canada. Larissa Lai takes up the term “Asian Canadian” as a term of emergence, in the sense that it is constantly produced differently, and always in relation to other terms—often “whiteness” but also Indigeneity, queerness, feminism, African Canadian, and Asian American. In the 1980s and 1990s, “Asian Canadian” erupted in conjunction with the post-structural recognition of the instability of the subject. But paradoxically it also came into being through activist work, and so depended on an imagined stability that never fully materialized. Slanting I, Imagining We interrogates this fraught tension and the relational nature of the term through a range of texts and events, including the Gold Mountain Blues scandal, the conference Writing Thru Race, and the self-writings of Evelyn Lau and Wayson Choy.
About the author
Larissa Lai is the author of two novels, When Fox is a Thousand, shortlisted for the Books in Canada First Novel Award, and Salt Fish Girl, shortlisted for the Tiptree Award, the Sunburst Award and the City of Calgary W.O. Mitchell Award; one book of poetry Automaton Biographies, shortlisted for the Dorothy Livesay Award; and a chapbook, Eggs in the Basement, shortlisted for the bp Nichol Chapbook Award.
Through the 90s, she was a cultural organizer in feminist, GLBTQ and anti-racist communities in Vancouver. Now, as an English professor at the University of British Columbia, she teaches courses on race, memory, and citizenship, as well as on biopower and the poetics of relation.
Rita Wong teaches in Critical + Cultural Studies at the Emily Carr University of Art + Design, Vancouver, BC, Canada, where she has developed a humanities course focused on water, with the support of a fellowship from the Center for Contemplative Mind in Society. She is currently researching the poetics of water, supported by a grant from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada: http://downstream.ecuad.ca/ .
Her poems have appeared in anthologies such as Prismatic Publics: Innovative Canadian Women's Poetry and Poetics, Regreen: New Canadian Ecological Poetry, Visions of British Columbia (published for an exhibition at the Vancouver Art Gallery), and Making a Difference: Canadian Multicultural Literature. She has a passion for daylighting buried urban streams and for watershed literacy. Wong can be found on twitter at https://twitter.com/rrrwong.
- Short-listed, ACQL Gabrielle Roy Prize for Literary Criticism
''Slanting I, Imagining We is a compelling and much-needed reappraisal of the formation of Asian Canadian literature by one of Canada's most accomplished and versatile writers and public intellectuals. Novelist, poet, and activist Larissa Lai's prose is fresh, readable, and engaging. Her discussion of the anti-racist work done by coalitions of people of colour, First Nations, and queer communities in the 1980s and 1990s reminds us of what is at stake in naming, representation, and nation building; of how the ghosts of the Vancouver riots of 1907 haunt the ‘Too Asian’ debates of 2010. Her critical readings of stories and poems by such writers as Garrett Engkent, Hiromi Goto, jam ismail, Rita Wong, Margaret Atwood, and Dionne Brand are illuminating, revealing the ways colonialism, appropriation, systems of categorization, and power continue to generate and construct identities and bodies in our globalized and digital world. Insightful, absorbing, and challenging—an invaluable addition to Asian North American, Canadian, gender, and cultural studies.''